Monthly Archives: August 2017

5 Writing Tools (1)

5 Writing Tools

Options fall into two broad categories: digital and non-digital. Each tool is ideal for a different type of writing. I find that when I am stuck, changing to the more appropriate tool can turn things around. Here are five tools with distinct advantages (interestingly, 4 of 5 are non-digital; before I switched to iPhone, my BlackBerry would have been on the list, since the keys allowed me to write in long form with ease, which is sadly not the case with the iPhone):

1.  Whiteboards

The ultimate right-brain brainstorming tool, perfect for mind mapping, theme generation, experimenting with key messages, sketching out an agenda and room set-up for a workshop, or anything where visualizing the solution is as important as the words themselves. While normally used with a group, this is an amazing tool for solo work as well.

2. Large Notebook

Ideal for longer pieces, where thinking through the writing is required, and where the writing will require multiple sittings over a period of weeks or months. Such notebooks tend to age like wine does: some reveal themselves years later to contain beautiful words of wisdom, though some turn to vinegar! Either way, they are the workhorse of creative writing.

3. Small Notebook

Pocket size, a limited number of pages, easy to toss in your bag for an inspired moment. These are perfect for lists, precise thoughts, topics, titles, catch phrases, and concepts.

4. Scrap Paper

One of the biggest barriers writers face is wanting the first draft to be perfect, be it for lack of time to fear of failure. The proverbial “back of the envelope” has a liberating quality, making it clear to the writer that this is just a super rough draft, not a polished piece of writing.

5. Laptop

I live on my laptop. It is my office, instrument, tool kit, dashboard, lifeline, and central organizing tool. It is my primary writing, design, research, social media, and entertainment device. I use it for PowerPoint, Word, and email—the holy trinity of creative writing tools in the digital era. It is a love-hate relationship, and life without it is impossible to imagine.

What are some of your favourite writing tools? Are they more old-school or new-age, or a combination of the two? I’d love to hear from you.

This post wraps up my 5 Things mini-series on writing. I hope you have enjoyed reading them. In case you missed my first two, you can read them here.

Happy writing!


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A few months ago, our creative team stumbled across these brutally honest freelance bios from McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, a satirical website. As we laughed our way through them, it occurred to us that it would be really interesting to see how our own teams think about their jobs.

Because the thing about most online bios is – they’re dull. Informative, perhaps, but usually something of a slog to get through. So we thought we would ask our team if they had ever wished they could share their hilarious/lightly scathing exaggerations about  their work. The kind of response to “What do you do?” that culminates in a deadpan “I transcribe handwritten post-its from blurry photographs into global best-practices”? You know … deep reflection about your work.

We sent out the challenge. Here are our favourites. (Actually, if we’re being brutally honest … these were the only ones sent in. Because it’s summer and holidays and *cough* that’s how it all rolled out. But we love them! Honestly!)


Paul Bremner (Creative Director, CA) is staring at his computer screen, trying to write something clever for his “Brutally Honest Bio.” He does this often—stare at his computer screen, watching the cursor as it blinks. Soon he will take a nap, and he will have the idea for a half-baked meta approach, which you are presently reading. Even though Paul has billable work he should be doing, Paul finds the “Brutally Honest Bio” challenge much more fun, so he will focus on that first. This probably explains the state of Paul’s bank account. Eventually this will lead him to seek out more paying work, hopefully from Audience.

And so it goes.

Mike Hewlett (Creative Director, UK) is a writer, ideas conjuror, concept fixer, content meddler, words masseur, apostrophe fixer, book cover judge, bigger picture seer. To keep it brief (unlike the briefs we get), Mike can write half-decent copy, direct creative ideas, and go toe-to-toe with clients on their agenda content. He also knows a lot of pointless stuff from the world beyond communications, understands the psychology of winning at rock-paper-scissors, and even used to DJ across south London pubs in Peckham, Penge, and Plumstead. This was primarily for the glamour and still comes in useful when helping to choose walk-on music for the great and the good in PDMA. He is writing this himself using the third person.

Howard Gopsill (Managing Director, CA) does not like to wear shoes.

Nicolas Kopp (Managing Director, SA) wouldn’t be caught dead wearing flip-flops (or t-shirts, or shorts) to the office.

Brandy Ryan (Creative Director, CA) manages her creative chaos systematically (as in: her systems have systems). This involves: colour-coding her handwritten notes. Cleaning whiteboards with hand sanitizer. Pushing chairs back into the table after she (and everyone else) has left. Clearing her desk at the end of each work day. (She will resist tidying your desk if you leave it a mess while on holiday, but only for one week.)

Mark Higgins (Creative Director, CA) is a collector and purveyor of rare and precious items, such as the semi-colon.